You will need:
- A clear plastic tub or aquarium
- Rubber shelf liner cut to the size of the bottom of the brooder
- A 40-60 watt light bulb (I like red since it seems to allow the babies to sleep better and be less aggressive).
- Clean bricks to prop the lamp up on. I use 4-6 bricks—2-3 stacked on top of each other depending on the age of the chicks and how hot the light bulb is.
- Make sure the lamp is on and the bricks are warm before adding chicks to the brooder or they can become chilled and get sick and die.
- Jar lids or bottle caps containing marbles with water OR a fountain type water. I usually use the later as it is more sanitary and the opening is small enough the chicks cannot drown. I set one red floral marble in the parakeet waterer for a day or two until I see them drinking and then remove the marble.
- Change the water several times a day because they will get the water dirty frequently.
- Un-medicated turkey or game bird starter should be spread liberally over the rubber liner so that the chicks find food wherever they walk. The food must be crushed or ground to make it small enough for the newly-hatched chicks to eat. A dedicated coffee grinder works well for this purpose. The consistency should be that of coarse corn meal and can be increased in size as the chicks age.
- Handle the chicks as little as possible, ESPECIALLY for the first 48 hours as this is when their hips harden. If their legs slip at all in the first couple of days they can have a hip side out of socket and/or show splayed legs. It is almost impossible to fix a chick that develops this condition. Even if the legs are taped they will always have arthritis and not move as well as other button quail.
- It helps to put textured paper towels over the shelf liner after the first two days, so that you can clean the cage when it needs it without moving the chicks.
- At a week of age it is safe to gently pick them up and move them while you clean out the bin well… then you can put pine or aspen shavings in the bottom.
- They will start to fly between 1.5 and 2 weeks of age so the brooder must be covered at this time.
- I put wire mesh over ¼ of the brooder at this time and set the lamp on it. The remainder of the brooder has fabric netting clothes pinned over it so that they do not escape or harm themselves when they fly straight up.
- Button Quail can be sexed starting at 3 weeks of age. Any bird hat has red or rust vent feathers is male. It may take a few more weeks to sex some of the less obvious mutations.
- Keep the birds in same gender groups until you pair them up.
- Keeping them in mixed sex groups tends to result in more aggression.
By 5 weeks old they should be paired up or be in a very large enclosure as they can become very aggressive when their hormones kick in.